A boy named Milford LeGlume was left alone
in his fathers’ furniture shoppe to mind the loveseats and Lazy Boys. His father, Mister Mumford LeGlume, was off to spend yet another extended luncheon drinking himself blind down at the old Hook ’n Nail Saloon. Truth be told, nobody liked it when Mumford LeGlume showed up at the old Saloon, buying rounds of drinks and ‘talking shoppe’ with the townies. His mumbling talk of new business usually meandered some place macabre, a place beyond the newest shipment of Butler tables and Swedish bedroom suites. No, Mister Mumford LeGlume was not an embraced man in this one-horse midwestern town. ‘Tolerated’ best describes the townespeoples furtive, uncomfortable glances whenever Mumford entered a room.
“Better hold onto your lunches, men, here comes LeGlume” was a favorite forewarning uttered as the slovenly Mumford came pulleying his stout, paunched body up the handrail, panting and sweating by the time he fell into the door. Some men would grab their guts with fake retching, others would spit slobbery streams of chewed food back onto their plates, letting the dribble and chunks of chilli slide sickly down their chins. Yes, Mumford LeGume was a man with the gift of making other men sick on site. Sick enough to maybe vomit.
Now, young Milford LeGlume, he was noticeably wise beyond his 8 years already. He could drive a tractor, even butcher a pig blindfolded (his fathers preferred method of teaching his sons to feel around the insides of a slaughtered animal, fingering the oily bloody innards, slimy organs, and gelatinous ropy entrails). He could superglue the eyelids of a dead man closed with barely a trace of the sticky, crystalized substance oozing out between rows of tarred eyelashes. By all accounts, he was a fine boy. And the folks in towne, they held high hopes for young Milford LeGlume. Yes, if any of the Mumford boys would break the lurid chain of the families last 138 years here in this cornbin of humanity known as Chickenfoot, South Dakota, folks was sure, it’d be that second Mumford boy. That one with the mild stutter and the pink cotton Butterfield shirts. He was sure to go places. Anyway, he most certainly didn’t have the stomach to stay here, and follow in his fathers footsteps. Not unless he could tap dance and pirouette his way along that path…
Back at the furniture shoppe, little Milford was nervously Endusting the smooth wooden arms of the Windsor- back chairs in the display window, prayerfully willing his father to return before 3 o’clock. You see, it was Halloween, and Milford was hoping this year he might join up with his buddies, Rudyard Boltstock and Johnny Boy Slithers, for some old-fashioned Trick-or-Treating. Why, the boys had already proven themselves Masters of Mischief Night the evening before; no one would ever know who’d left that pair of greasy, sunken-in eyeballs in the pickled egg jar down at the Olde Hook ’n Nail. Or how they’d been pried, painstakingly, out of the listless head of dear old Mister McDoogle, former John Deere salesman, with a rusty teaspoon. All three agreed, they had finally graduated from immature, rotten-egg throwing and peeing on car door handles. They were ‘Big Guys’ now. They had moved forever into that mysterious world of Manhood, a world which required much one-upmanship. Nobody, they were sure, would beat their eyeballs-in-the-pickled-eggs trick, that’s for sure! They had silently entered the Secret Club of Man. They just couldn’t send out announcement cards yet.
Suddenly Milfords musings were interrupted by the snarling sounds of a hungry animal. He froze in dusting position. Slowly turning towards the back corner of the showroom floor, his eyes glanced over the Eterna-Beds and had barely met the face of the Grandfather clock, when it began to dong! dong! dong!
Folding the dust rag neatly into quartered squares, Milford hesitantly shuffled toward the back of the shoppe, slid through the faded olive-green curtains, and entered the back ‘work room’. Placing the rag on the tiled counter beside the sink, Milford drew a shallow breath, closed his eyes, and felt his insides twirl and roll off into a somersault. ‘Whatever you do…Don’t open the door’ the warning voice within him echoed. He felt hunger grip his insides the same way he’d seen his fathers fingers squeeze the slippery blood-reddened guts of Johnny Boys’ grandmother, only months before. As he passed the long table in the center of the sterile room, he slid his hand over it’s eerily cold ediface. He imagined he could still smell Granny Slithers’ perfume, soaked into that slab, permeating the tables worn marble top.
He wretched. Just a little. But he remembered the look in his fathers eyes, when he once had puked all over the corpse of Mrs. Reedy. He was just four years old… the memory of that disapproving glare now jerked him upright. Collecting himself with another forced breath, his hand guided him along the edge of the table, numb feet slid heavily toward the small refrigerator door secured in the wall. Whatever you do…Don’t open the door. With one hand pressing hard against his gut, the other hand reached for the steel handle. His heart thumped louder and louder, filling his ears with a pounding like kettle drums.
Mister Mumford LeGlume downed his fourth scotch while distractedly lecturing Jarvis Bowers on the fine art of sewing a mans lips together with fishing line, ‘nothing stronger than 20 pound test weight, that’s for sure’, and he broke himself up laughing at what was, to him, apparently, a mighty good joke. Jarvis found himself gripping his lower belly. Involuntary convulsions riveted over his midsection. He almost threw up, right then, into his Pabst Blue Ribbon. But slowly, bulge-eyed and green joweled, he turned aside. The tiniest rivulet of liquified chili dogs slid across his crooked lower teeth, aimed expertly into his mug, and fell with a hollow ‘ploop’ before being swallowed down into the foamy white head of beer.
Darla the Bar Maid, well versed in the art of barside discretion, silently pulled another Pabst from the tap and slid it under poor Jarvis Bowers slacking jaw, even as she whisked the polluted glass full of floating kidney bean chunks swiftly under the bar. This was usual business practice for the bar keep, whenever Mumford LeGlume came to call, that is.
“Darla…” Mumford was all business, slapping a pair bills on the pocked wooden bar, ”Give me a pair of those pickled eggs, now won’t you?” His smile was a grimace, as he maneuvered his gout-fattened ankle around to the front of his stool. With one hand pouring a beer, and concentrating on crafting just the right thickness of head, she reached behind her with the other. Pushing the lid aside on the two gallon jar was a task she’d done ten thousand times in her twenty-three years as barmaid at the Olde Hook n’ Nail. Sinking an uncleaned hand down into the cool, sharp fluid, rubbery white eggs bobbed away from her grasp. Frustrated, she pushed her hand against the jars’ glass wall, and pressed hard untill she had captured two at once. Darla simultaneously slapped the pair of eggs into a rocks glass while pushing a beer in front of DeGlume. She flapped her hand a few times to shake off the brine, and picked up Mulfords’ pair of one dollar bills.
”That’ll do ya, then?” she asked hoarsely.
Without answering, Mulford’s right hand slid into the glass, and captured his first slippery nugget. At first notice, the eggs felt small.
“What’re these? Bantam eggs again?” he teased Darla. Before she could answer, one of old Mister McDoogles’ greyed eyeballs was rolling around against his cheek, sucked inside out, and slurped right down the back of his throat. Mumford made a slight face, one of confusion, but quickly erased any distaste he may have reacted to with a long pull of Pabst Blue Ribbon. He lightly punched his chest with the back of his fist, as if he might be welling up with indigestion. His eyes widened. He half-hiccupped, then exhaled deeply. His breath tasted of old vinegared eggs and formaldehyde.
“Well that was the worst damned pickled egg I ever did eat, Darla” he bellowed.
Darla shrugged, and dried a pair of shot glasses with a napkin. “Don’t know where else you’re gonna be drinkin’ yer lunches, then, DeGlume” she added wryly.
A chorus of muffled snickers lapped ’round the bar.
“Nonsense” Mumford retorted. He grabbed the short glass and shot the other eyeball down his throat, swallowing it whole without chewing. “I been coming this place near thirty years. Take more ‘an rotten eggs a keep me away!”
Darla sniffed. “Lawd knows, we tried ever’thing else!”
And encore of laughter rewarded her sarcasm.
Mumford one-upped that with a resounding belch, the volume of which drowned out the fading vocal applause. Which, disgusting as that was, rustled up another belt of knee-slapping guffaws. Mumford gave a hard, self-righteous nod, and slid off his bar stool.
“Time to get back to my little shop of horrors” he said, steadying himself on the back of his stool.
“Hey, DeGlume -” Whitey Johnson hollered from across the bar, “can I get a two-fer-one deal? My wife’s cat just died.’
As he pounded past, Mumford answered, “Sure…only we don’t stuff n’ serve cats. You know that.”
“But my wife always said, (raising his voice in imitation) ‘If Muffy ever dies, I wanna be buried with my cat”.
A crescendo of “Oooooohs!” filled the bar. Mumford stopped and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“So, ask me again. After you’ve killed your wife”.
Lunchtime was surely over.
Milford wrapped the remains of his cheese sandwich in the wax paper just the way his mother had taught him. He stared numbly at the small silver door in the wall. ‘Whatever you do…Dont open that door…”
But now he felt parched and desperate. He had to open the door…
He had spent the morning dusting and working out his little solution. If his father came back from lunch drunk, as usual, and then proceeded to embalm ole Mister McDoogle, he might not notice the hollow depressions in the dead mans face where the eyeballs used to be. However, luckily, the grieving widow, Mrs. McDoogle, had stopped by earlier that morning with a dozen fresh bantam eggs from her prized show hens, along with a blueberry torte for his father. Using the tip of a surgeons scalpel, Milford had punctured small holes in the tips of several of the undersized eggs. The experiments to hard-boil the eggs in the microwave had been an explosive failure. He had finally emptied a beaker of embalming fluid, replaced it with water, and hung it over the bunsen burner. Ten minutes later, he peeled the burning hot, half-sized eggs from their shells. (this task was accompanied by a snazzy little dance, punctuated by occasional ‘Jazz Hands’, as he tossed the hot eggs to and fro)
‘Whatever you do…you must open that door!” the voice inside now urged him.
He carried the pair of slippery wet eggs over to the metal door in the wall. His small hand whitened as he gripped the handle, bent down, and pulled with all his might while walking backwards. The long tray stuck, jerked, then screeched and rolled out of the wall, serving up a long slice of Mister McDoogles’ wrinkled old corpse.
“Not that you’ll be needing these, Mister McGoober…” little Milford LeGlume said under his breath.
Deftly peeling back the dead mans eyelids from his half-melted face, Milford used one hands’ fingers to hold open the left eye, while trying to push an egg into the socket with the other. One of the loose eggs popped out of his small, 8-year-old hand, and rolled across the floor. He shoved the spare egg into his mouth for safekeeping, then scrambled down on his hands and knees in search of the getaway ‘eggball’, as he was now jokingly calling it, to himself. He thought of how proud Johnny Boy and Rudy would be when he told them both the story, later that day. They’d gather in his basement and smear their bodies in green paint, molest their mouths with the tubes of black lipstick from the costume section of the five and dime. Fake red blood would be squirted on their clothes and smeared on their somber faces.
As agreed in their secret pact the night before, in this very mortuary, they would become
The Three Zombieteers!